Getting more out of referral relationships with professional contacts, such as CPAs and attorneys is one of the most common challenges that business owners face.  Partnerships with other professionals are only successful when the professional directly witnesses the benefit that their clients receive through your service.  And in most cases, you have to wait for one of their clients to ask them “who do you know” before you will see a referral.  This reactive approach can be an ineffective way to leverage professional relationships. 

On the other hand, a proactive approach can be much more successful.  The partnerships that you have, or the ones that you are trying to develop, should focus on how working together can benefit each other’s clients, as well as increase retention and referrals.  You should determine what value really means to them and what your line of expertise can present.

Determining the values that matter most to your clients can be achieved in a variety of ways, but one very effective method is a focus group.  Both individuals in the relationship should bring a handful of their clients to the group.  These clients can be compensated by a gift card or similar item for their time and input.  This is an excellent way to get in front of 40-50 of your professional partners’ clients in a service focused way each year.  During the focus group, you should concentrate on determining the information that is important to them.  Their feedback can then be used to develop cooperative workshops, newsletters, and other materials that they are seeking.  In turn, they will see that you have a focus on service, you value the opinions of your clients, and you follow through with things.  Focus groups can really strengthen your professional relationships and as importantly, save you time with the professionals that you thought “may” become referral partners.   True professionals who want to work with you to create value for their clients will love the idea. The benefits to them are many. 

0682-CLS-4/6/2011